Bartholomew and the Bug by Neal Layton

This is a wonderfully funny picture book about a bear called Bartholomew who comes to the rescue of a young bug who only has one day to live and desperately wants to leave the wilderness and go to the bright lights of the big city and let his hair down before he dies.

It is not morbid at all, despite the fact that it is clear what the bug’s fate will be.  Instead it focuses on Bartholomew and the bug’s struggles to get to the city and their wild night of partying when they get there.  Bartholomew is rather laid back and, just a soft hearted, helpful kind of guy. The bug is all wired and jumpy and buzzes and squeaks about, talking incessantly.

The illustrations are cartoonish and bright and full of movement and little jokes which you can spend time looking at with your child, or allow your child to point out to you as you read with them.

My five year old son absolutely loves this book, both because of the illustrations, which are very, very funny, and because of the silly voice of the bug.  He was in fits of laughter as we read it together, and I heard him talking about it to all his friends on the playground the next morning, which is a perfect recommendation.

I would say that it is suitable for four to eight or nine year olds. It really is too picture bookish to work any further up the age range unless you have a very relaxed, very confident reader who doesn’t mind being seen reading picture books.  The humour means that it would work for older children, if you could just get them past the mental barrier of what is appropriate for them to read.

This is a great book to read aloud to your child, or to a class because the voices of Bartholomew and the bug are so distinctive and so funny, and it is their dialogue which really carries the thrust of the story.  Using different voices and facial expressions while reading really bring this story to life and make it a joy to share.  The text jumps about rather on the page, and the font is quite tricky, so it might only suit a confident reader as a read alone book.

It would work equally well for boys and girls, mainly because of the humour content and the fact that it is about animals, so they don’t have to worry about it being too girly or otherwise.